Friday, October 9, 2015

Parcivillian -- In Concert!

A few weeks ago, I got to see Parcivillian in concert. An actual concert, not just an open mic night where they performed a few songs. It was pretty great.
If I'm remembering correctly, they opened with "Lonely Road," a pretty rocking song, then moved on to "Left Behind," which might still be my favorite song by them.
Before I go on, though, remember that I said a while back that I got to go to one of their rehearsals? Well, I did, and, now, finally, I want to talk about that for a moment.

I would say that their method for producing music is on a "how does it feel?" basis. That was a question Delek and Stav asked each other more than once, "How does that feel?" It was interesting for me, because I've only been involved in music rehearsals before for already written music, so there was no, "How does it feel?" It was only learning the music as it was written.

This was music creation, and it was pretty cool to watch and listen to. There was a lot of "go back and try..." Okay, honestly, when they started doing that stuff, it was like listening to people speaking some other language. Because it was. Mostly, I didn't follow it, but they all understood each other even without the completion of sentences.
Anyway... They were working on two new songs at the rehearsal I was at, both of which they played at the concert in their completed forms, one of which I had insisted that they finish: "Say Goodbye." "Say Goodbye" is a great song with a catchy chorus bit. I think it has all the things a song needs to be a hit, especially the part where you want to hear it again as soon as it's over. Alas, I have only heard the finished song the one time at the concert, because they don't have it recorded yet. (Psst! Go over and tell them to record it!)
All of that to say that it was great to hear them perform the new songs, especially "Say Goodbye." It was great to get to hear all of the songs they don't have recorded, yet. They did, of course, end with "One Kiss," my wife's favorite song by them (and it is a good one) and, really, the thing that started all of this off. The only bummer was that Elliot (the one who plays the violin) wasn't able to be there so "One Kiss" was done without the violin, but it sounded (nearly) just as good!

This is the last Parcivillian post... for the moment. I am sincerely hoping I will be able to revisit the group in not too long to tell you how they're doing and what kinds of strides they're making.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Clone Wars -- "Storm Over Ryloth" (Ep. 1.19)

-- It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]

This is the kind of episode that makes me love this series.

Anakin is tasked with breaking a blockade around the planet Ryloth so that Obi-Wan can get through with ground troops so that they can liberate the Twi'lek population from the Separatists who are, actually, treating the Twi'leks pretty poorly (but that's next episode). Part of his plan includes giving Ahsoka her first command. Which would be great...

Except that it's a trap!

Yes, the Separatists set up a trap for the Republic forces, and Ahsoka's fighter squadron gets... well... pretty shot up.

The issue here is that it's her fault. When called back because it's a trap, she disobeys orders because she believes she can still complete her mission. Because she doesn't return and the fleet has to wait for her, they lose an entire cruiser and get pretty beat up themselves.

There are a lot of things in this episode that make it worth watching and that I could talk about, but I'm just going to pick one, the one I find most compelling. Ahsoka disobeys Anakin's orders because, basically, that's what he's taught her to do through his own actions. At the point when Anakin tells her to turn back, she persists because that's what Anakin would do. But she fails where Anakin so often succeeds, and there are devastating results.

Ahsoka doesn't understand why she failed and is crushed that she cost so many clones their lives. The admiral is also wounded during the attack (there's a touching scene where she visits him while he's unconscious and apologizes to him). During the moment when Anakin confronts Ahsoka about her disobedience, she actually tells him that he does the same kind of thing all the time.

Now, what you'd expect is that Anakin would make some kind of excuse as to why it's okay for him to behave in that manner, because that's what you'd get from most shows. But that's not what happens. Anakin just owns it and tells her that she's right. He doesn't apologize for it, either. It's actually a very mature handling of the situation in which he tells her that she needs to learn when to follow orders, because she won't always be able to see the bigger picture. In essence, this is mature parenting, which is rather what having a Padawan is like.

This is a great episode and I would highly recommend it.

"Did you train her not to follow orders?"

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fallacies of the Church (part three) -- God Rewards the Good (or The Prosperity Doctrine)

As I said last time, "God is all you need" is one of the most harmful lies of "the church." That one can be joined by the idea that God rewards people who are good, go to church, and tithe, i.e., the righteous. This is called the Prosperity Doctrine (or, actually, any number of other things). Not to get into the history of it, but, in the history of Christianity, this a brand new idea going against centuries of Christian doctrine. You know, all that stuff that says you should give the coat off your back, care for widows and orphans, and things like that.

And, hey, I get it! It's great to believe that all you need to do is go to church and toss a little bit of money in the plate and you'll get all kinds of rewards and prosperity. Pastors count on it, in fact.

As could be expected, the Prosperity Doctrine saw its big rise to prominence in the 1980s and was the foundational message of many of the big televangelists. It has also been the foundation of virtually every mega-church out there, around the world, not just in the United States. And though it has mostly grown out of non-denominational churches, Prosperity Doctrine has permeated nearly every protestant denomination there is. Oh, and Christian music is full of it.

I'm going to share with you an example from a very popular Christian band, a band I like, that is just horrible. I hate this song, and I hate it so much that I lost major respect for this band that I have liked for years. So, yes, it's a horrible song, but you should listen to it anyway -- the words, not the music -- so you'll know what I'm talking about.
That's the whole problem: It seems to make sense. You know, if God loves us, why wouldn't he want us to thrive? Why wouldn't he want us to have lives full of... well, everything that we want to have in them? Which is the context of the song, God made you to have full, rich lives, full of everything you should have to make you happy. All you need to do is praise God (and give your 10%!), and he's gonna give you ALL the STUFF!


If you read the Bible, especially the New Testament, it's very easy to see that the call to Christianity is not the call to a life of ease and riches. The call to Christianity is a call to hardship. The road less traveled because it's a road that requires sacrifice. That's a hard message for people to take and was driving people away during the great rise of consumerism of the 80s. So how about a message that's all about how God wants to reward you instead?

As with most lies of "the church," all of this prosperity bullshit is based on one verse that is taken completely out of context: Malachi 3:10. It says blah blah blah bring the whole tithe to the storehouse, and I will pour so much blessing on you that you can't hold it all blah blah blah. Oh, yeah, and it says "test me on this." So, yeah, it's a challenge from God: Bring me your tithe and see if I don't just bless you beyond your ability to keep it all.

Again, it sounds great, which is why so many people buy into it, but there are so many things wrong with taking this as a personal message from God:
1. It's not a personal message from God! Not to individuals. It's a message from the prophet Malachi to the entire nation of Israel. It's a message delivered because, as was so often the case, Israel was screwing up. This is not a message intended to be used by people to get rich.
2. Tithing itself is something that has been taken out of context and shouldn't exist in the Christian church. Tithing was for the support of the professional priest system of the Israelites. The Christian church was not supposed to have professional priests, and, if you look at the first century Christian church, it did not. Professional priests got re-invented for Christianity during the formation of the Catholic church and tithing, then, was re-introduced. It was never supposed to be that way.
3. Look, I could go on, but those two are really enough; however, I'll add this:

Honestly, God just doesn't care about your personal "happiness." He's not sitting around up in Heaven somewhere thinking, "Hmm... I wonder what I can do to make Andrew happy today. Oh! I know! I'll send him a check for $10,000!" Your material life not just isn't at the top of God's to-do list, it's not on the list at all. He doesn't care.

He doesn't care if you have a big house. He doesn't care if you have a nice car. He doesn't car what kind iphone you carry. He doesn't care what kind of clothes you wear. Seriously, if God was concerned about you having these things, everyone would have these things. Why? Because no one is "good" in the eyes of God, so everyone would be rewarded the same way.

So, yes, the Prosperity Doctrine draws people in, but, ultimately, it drives almost all of those same people away. Just as soon as they realize that it doesn't work. God is not a slot machine. There is no payout. Not in cash. Not in things. Not in "happiness." There's a system in place for all of that stuff so that God doesn't have to bother with it, if that's a way to put it (which it's really not, but I don't have a better way). Just get over the idea right now that if you're good then God is going to "bless" you or make you rich or whatever.

And, if you're in a church that teaches this idea, even a watered down version of it, you should get out now. That church is concerned with the right things.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Don Quixote -- Part Two (a book review post)

A thing most people don't realize is that Don Quixote is actually two books written a decade apart. I know I didn't know before I picked up the book and did some background research on it. That's always a good thing, by the way. To understand the second book, in fact, you really need to understand the context of when and why Cervantes wrote it. Yes, there will be some spoilers (but not too many but one that reveals the end of the book).

Cervantes purposefully left the end of the first book open for a sequel, to put it in today's terms. Not the he necessarily intended to write one, but he wanted to be able to write more about Quixote if he wanted to. And he might have if the first book hadn't become the huge success that it became. "What?" you say, "That doesn't make sense." But it did.

See, Don Quixote became the most read book in the world at the time. Cervantes became a household name. He was world famous. It sounds great, right? It was... except for the part where he didn't receive a dime for his work. There was nothing to stop people from just printing his work on their own, no laws or anything protecting creators or copyrights or anything, and that's what people did. All over the world. So, although Quixote was a worldwide bestseller, Cervantes stayed penniless (which is how he died). I'm pretty sure that eroded his desire to actually go back and revisit Don Quixote and Sancho.

Until someone published a fake sequel. That pissed Cervantes off and prompted him to get to work on the second book. And here's why that's important: There are specific portions of the second book that are there to, basically, debunk the fake sequel. And, um, then Cervantes kills Quixote off at the end of the book so that no one else could write anymore fake Quixote stories. No better way to take care of that issue, I suppose.

As for the book itself, in many ways it's better than the first book, but it also suffers a little from addressing the audience about the fake sequel. It breaks the narrative. It's also amusing in sections, like when Quixote finds out that he supposedly goes somewhere in the fake book, so he completely avoids that place so as not to be confused with the fake Don Quixote.

The second book contains a bit more satire than the first and makes many of its points through making fun of Quixote and Panza. Sancho, though, frequently rises above the jokes being played on him, and the portion dealing with him as the governor of his "island" are some of the best in both books.

At any rate, you're not going to find the two books published separately, and it's unlikely that you'll want to stop reading at the end of book one if you get to the end of book one. So I'll say it again: Don Quixote is well worth reading, even 400 years after its original publication. Cervantes was a great writer. It's too bad he didn't write other novels. He did write some plays early in his life, and I might have to look into some of those. Don't let the length daunt you. Just dive in.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Clone Wars -- "Mystery of a Thousand Moons" (Ep. 1.18)

-- A single chance is a galaxy of hope.

[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]

Picking up on the heels of the previous episode, we see the release of the deadly virus Dr. Vindi was making. This episode becomes one of those "find a cure" episodes that so many TV shows employ at least once. And who's infected with the virus? Padme and Ahsoka, of course. Fortunately, a clue to a cure is near at hand, though you have to wonder how the virus was ever a scourge to the galaxy when they key to the cure turns up so easily.

Yes, yes, I know! Just because they Jedi have knowledge of the cure now doesn't mean anyone knew about it when the virus was a threat. Still...

The problem for me with this episode, at least on this re-watch of it, is that there really isn't any tension. You know that Anakin and Obi-Wan will find a cure for the disease. Of course, you know that. But the whole thing felt too easy for me. I don't remember how I felt about it the first time I watched it. There's also the issue that I'm not overly fond of the racing-the clock-to-find-a-cure-for-a-deadly-disease plot. I have a difficult time buying into those, because, on the whole, they never work the way diseases actually work.

There are some good points in this story, though.

We get Obi-Wan's first (I think (I'm pretty sure (at least, I don't remember any earlier ones))) look of suspicion at Anakin to do with his feelings about Padme. It's unfortunate that the series can't really deal with this dynamic in any depth because Obi-Wan still has to be surprised during Revenge of the Sith that Padme's pregnant by Anakin.

The side character Jaybo Hood is interesting.

We get to meet the Angels of Iego, which Anakin compares Padme to all the way back in The Phantom Menace.

The one other point of interest in the episode has to do with some of the clones who have also contracted the virus. Padme makes a comment about it being a shame that so many of them are sick and one of the other clones tells her that she shouldn't be so bothered about it because it's what the clones were made for. Again, the dynamics between the clones and their "masters" is one of the most interesting aspects of the show, and I'm glad they continue to explore the relationship.

The episode has its good moments, but it's not one of the more interesting ones. Even though it carries the "plague" idea over from the previous episode, it's still really a one-off, and I prefer when they do the story arcs that include character development.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fallacies of the Church (part two) -- All You Need Is God

Maybe you've heard the joke:

There was a man caught in a flood because he didn't leave his house when he was told to evacuate. Rather than leave, he put his faith in God to save him. The waters rose higher and higher until he was eventually forced to climb out onto his roof. Once there, a man in a small boat came by and offered to carry him to safety. The man replied, "No, thank you. God will save me."

The waters continued to rise until he was sitting on the very top of his roof. A couple of men came by in a fishing boat and offered to carry him to safety. The man replied, "No, thank you! God will save me."

The waters continued to rise until he was forced to climb to the top of his chimney to sit. A helicopter came by and lowered itself and dropped a rope. The man replied, "No, thank you! God will save me!"

The waters continued to rise, and the man was swept away and drowned. Upon entering Heaven, he said to God, "God, I put my faith in you. Why didn't you save me?"

God answered, "I sent two boats and a helicopter. What more did you want?"

** ** **

Unfortunately, this joke is the perfect example of one of the greatest lies of "the church": God is all you need. And, hey, I get it; there are plenty of verses you can point to in the Bible that seem to say that, plenty of verses that talk about how God will supply your needs. Your physical needs. Except, the problem there is that those needs, with the exception of manna in the desert, don't magically appear. People provide them.

The thing is this: This is one of the most harmful lies of the church, this idea that God is all you need. It's always delivered in the context of someone needing help, which is what makes it so destructive. Are you going through an emotional upheaval, like a divorce? Don't worry; God is all you need. Are you going through a financial difficulty, like you just lost your job and can't make your house payments? Don't worry; God is all you need. Did you just suffer a physical trauma, like you found out you have cancer? Don't worry; God is all you need.

This line is always delivered in an effort to get the human(s) saying it out of any responsibility to be of assistance in the situation. "Oh, you don't need me. God is all you need." Then, if that situation doesn't turn around and end up in a positive manner? Well, there's definitely something wrong with the individual who had the problem. That person didn't "trust" God enough or, maybe, and even worse, God didn't like that person to begin with.

"All you need is God" is a cop out from "the church" and its members delivered on a weekly basis to people "the church" doesn't want to associate with.

What's worse (and it's worse because it's more insidious) is that it teaches people to not accept help, just like the guy in the joke. Accepting help from other people is some twisted kind of weakness and proof that you're not trusting God to... what? Who knows. Materialize a stack of money in your living room? "Fix" the spouse who is initiating the divorce? Heal you over night of the cancer? I'm just going to say this: If you're in need and someone offers help, fucking take the help! That's what people are for. Because God is actually not all you need.

What I know from experience from the use of this statement against people (and, yes, I do mean "against"), either from getting out of needing to offer help or people refusing to ask for it, is that when things don't work out, people feel abandoned by God and, therefore, abandon "the church," which, actually, might be for the better. However, destroying someone's faith is never for the better. And "the church" was put here to help people, not to tell them that they only need God and everything will be okay.

Look, I'm not going to get into a tit for tat verse argument about the validity of the statement; that would be pointless. Instead, I'm going to look at one particular event in the Bible, a foundational event, you could say. It doesn't even matter if you take this event as literal fact or some sort of metaphor, the truth that comes out of this is the same either way if you believe that God created man as a being meant to be in a relationship with Him. Let's look at Adam:

God is sitting around up in Heaven and, evidently, being a bit bored. All He has are Angels who don't have "free will," whatever that means considering a third of them rebelled against Him. Whatever the case, God decides to make a man, and He does. For a while, everything is great. God comes down to the special place He made for the man, Eden, and hangs out with him every night. Maybe they played poker? Or, maybe, they had a long running game of Monopoly going? You know with just two people that game can go on for ages. Or, maybe, they just skipped stones on the lake. I don't know.

What I do know is that, after a while, God realized that He, He being God!, was not enough for Adam. Adam was lonely and bored and couldn't handle all of the work of taking care of Eden all by himself. God was NOT all Adam needed. The end result of that is... well, people. Social people that need to depend on each other and cannot get by on God alone, as it were.

And I could go on and on. God appeared to Moses and told Moses that He would be with him, and Moses said, "Nope, I need a person." David had Jonathan. Paul had Barnabas. Jesus had his disciples! God, as man, needed people! Obviously, God is NOT all you need.

That the current iteration of Christianity is full of this message, "All you need is God," from the pulpit and pews to Christian music, is, well, it's horrible and destructive and a lie. In fact, it's undermining to the whole message of true Christianity. Of course, what we have in the United States today is more of a political movement, not a faith, and that message fits right in with that. A church that is preaching the "all you need is God" teaching is, more than likely, not a church you should be attending. Unless, of course, you're already bought into the same idea as a way of avoiding helping people.